I’m always grateful when I come across authors who speak with a mystical voice. Their poetic nature speaks to me at my deepest levels and feeds a stream within me that is seldom accessed by more ordinary means. I found such a voice in John O’Donohue’s generous book, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. I say “generous” because words of wisdom fill his book. At times his thoughts all but took my breath away, and I heard myself whispering, Ah, yes…
That’s what truth does, you know. It echoes inside you and triggers a moment of profound recognition. It isn’t that we don’t know the truth. It’s simply that we’ve forgotten. Here are some of the things O’Donohue helped me remember:
1. We are connected to nature.
The Celts knew a different world than the one we usually view. Our world is a world of separation, of duality. Not so with the Celts. For them, the stars, the sky, the earth, the seas were all part of their extended being. They felt reverence for Nature’s innate harmony, and they tried to honor that harmony by how they lived their lives.
2. Your soul mate is your “Anam Cara”.
When you had an Anam Cara, you were joined to someone to whom you could tell everything. That someone knew everything about you and loved you anyway. This was someone with whom you could blend and become one. In some mysterious way, you were joined eternally with this friend so that whenever your paths crossed in this vast universe, soul recognition occurred, and the conscious joining occurred again.
3. You are your own best Anam Cara.
O’Donohue posits that one of our deepest longings is to be seen. That longing is answered through the blending that occurs with our sacred other, but he doesn’t stop there. He goes even deeper when he explains that our sacred other and most intimate soul mate is oneself.
4. Difficulty is one of our soul’s greatest friends.
O’Donohue questions why we can’t embrace both the dark and light sides of our nature. He suggests that our lesser side is simply the part of us where growth will occur. He says our lives would be immeasurably enriched if we could offer the same hospitality to the negative as we bring to the joyful and pleasurable. He reminds us that ignoring something focuses our attention on it, but we all know that what you put your attention on never goes away. That is why we need to accept whatever it is, as it is. But why is that so hard? Perhaps we need a broader view where challenge is seen as a doorway to hidden possibilities.
5. The negative, dark sides of our souls do not lie.
O’Donohue says our dark side does have one significant attribute—its intrinsic honesty. Pain is utterly honest. Pain is how our system tells us something needs attention. That is such a gift! What if the problem just came to stay like an uninvited guest with no chance of it ever going away? Fortunately, life isn’t like that. There is always something we can do. That something has to do with what O’Donohue calls inner work.
6. Inner work is the beginning of the way out.
Inner work has to do with the long and sometimes difficult task of “self retrieval.” We begin by offering compassion toward the one who needs it most—oneself! Self-acceptance is the beginning of compassion.
We are such a frenetic society. We’re always chasing after this or that when what we really need is to get reacquainted with ourselves, to find out who we are, to face our deep and difficult issues so we can move beyond them. That never happens in the fast lane. It happens only in solitude, and solitude doesn’t look at the clock.
7. Solitude with our souls helps us find our deeper purpose.
Solitude gives us the space we need to discover what O’Donohue calls the invisible necessity that brought us here. That necessity is our destiny, the purpose we long to fulfill. We find that purpose when we tune in to our own inner space where time doesn’t matter. Being is what matters, so you learn to just be. No fragmenting here. Just yourself in the moment. No looking back. No looking ahead. Just now as you are. We do that best when we are alone, when we are silent. If we are ever to do this, we have to accept ourselves, foibles and all.
Self-torment ceases when we have found our own inner peace. That peace opens us to the strength of the great mountains and the effervescent joy of the rivers and streams, but first we must slow down. We must pay attention. We must be still before we can hear the silent music that surrounds us. The door to that level of perception only opens from the inside.
8. Solitude with our soul heals us.
It’s so healing to enter into Nature’s solitude, to hear its language, to bask in the restorative, re-balancing rhythm of the ocean. Just being there unravels the tangles and snares inside us. As our own inner rhythm entwines with that mighty force, the discordant places inside us dissolve and fade away.
When we are just being, we enter into companionship with our soul. Here, in this hallowed place, is the stuff of eternity where the promise of our unfolding is secure, and we know beyond any doubt that all our needs have already been met. This is the place of our deepest belonging, where the meaning of our days awaits us. That meaning lies hidden in our eternally uncharted and unmeasured soul.
9. Therefore, you must tend to your soul.
The soul is where we carry our world around within us. We alone have the keys to this sacred domain. The responsibility for our soul’s care and keeping belongs only to us. If we tend it well, our innate harmony and balance are kept intact. There, in our depths, we touch upon the vision that gave our life its purpose, and we sense the natural rhythm of its divine expression.
10. Open yourself to the flow of the soul.
If we would know God, we must know silence. All our hopes and dreams, our thoughts and words are born from silence. Even our potential is held in the sacred womb of silence. We open to that potential by turning to the silence, by letting it inform us, guide us, be us. As we open to our inner and outer vastness, the eternal river starts to flow, and our potential begins to unfold.
There is so much promise residing within each one of us. Too often, we allow our potential to go untapped, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When we are willing to rise above our fears and turn at last toward the light, we begin living the life we love, and our boundaries just melt away, revealing our true nature in all its eternal splendor.